12 April 2018

Lyle Hill

12 April 2018

Good morning,

It seems Theresa May may well ready for the UK to join the US and France in military action against the Assad regime.

May has called a meeting today of her Cabinet to weigh up the options for a military response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this week. Sources at the BBC understand that May is willing to strike with the US and France without seeking parliamentary approval, a stance Labour and the SNP have condemned.

She was perhaps forced into action by President Trump's tweets yesterday, where he announced that missiles "will be coming" and that they will be "nice and new and smart". He also wrote that the US relationship was now worse with Russia than it had ever been, and seemed to offer an ultimatum that the US would help with the Russian economy if it stopped "the arms race".

While Trump has faced fierce criticism of his presidency, when it comes to Syria and chemical weapons abuse he has been clear in his policy and acted accordingly. Following the last attack almost exactly a year ago, he launched a strong retaliatory response and it looks certain he will do so again, regardless of UK backing.

When he does so is another matter however. France has pledged its support, but Trump will not wait long for Britain to make up its mind. Cynically, commentators in the United States have pointed out that former FBI director James Comey's 'tell-all' interview is due to air on ABC on Sunday night, and won't rule out the attack coinciding with the programme to reduce media scrutiny.

If this is the case, it would be a sad state of affairs. But as Trump and the rest of the world has quickly found out, all is fair in love, war and politics.

News

Yulia Skripal has rejected help from the Russian Embassy "at the moment" following her release from hospital. She claimed in a statement through police that her father remained seriously ill and she was not yet strong enough to conduct a media interview, but that "no one spoke for her or her father".

Mark Zuckerberg completed a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday, appearing in front of the House energy and commerce committee. At the hearing, he admitted that his own personal data had been taken by Cambridge Analytica and refused to curb Facebook's collection of data from its users. 

Jeremy Corbyn will launch a new Labour policy to provide free bus services for under 25s in England, in councils where local bus services are brought back into public ownership. The policy is estimated to cost £1.4 billion and would be paid for by money raised from the vehicle excise duty, currently being used for road improvements.

Business & Economy

FirstGroup has rejected a takeover offer from the private equity group Apollo. In a statement late last night, the company called the offer "opportunistic" and "highly conditional". Earlier in the day, its shares had closed up 7.4% higher, raising its market value to £1.23 billion. However, the company has faced difficulties and its share price fell 40% for the year to the end of March.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has offered a stark warning to policy chiefs in Beijing over their Belt and Road Initiative. She said China should be wary of financing "unneeded" and "unsustainable" projects that would lead to a "problematic increase in debt".

In Brexit news, it was a mixed day for the prospects of UK trade following the exit from the EU. In an interview with The Times, Justin Trudeau claimed Brexit would allow Canada to negotiate a more "impactful" deal with the UK. However, the Indian government also announced that it would not prioritise a free trade agreement with the UK following Brexit.

 

Markets

What happened yesterday?
An unexpected drop in UK manufacturing and an even more substantial drop in construction output brought the FTSE 100 down yesterday.

Additionally, investor caution over geopolitical events left the markets jittery, as the ensuing war of words between the United States and Russia left investors cautious. The FTSE 100 closed down 0.13% or 9.61 points at 7,257.14.

Tesco was the standout winner yesterday after it declared its first year-end dividend since 2014 as it reported a 28% rise in underlying operating profits thanks to improved margins. Chief Executive Dave Lewis hailed the results as another strong performance and said the group remained on track with its current strategy.

At the other end of the markets, Hammerson fell after announcing it had rejected a second bid from French shopping mall owner Klépierre. The revised offer, made on April 9, was 635p a share, made up of 50% in new Klépierre shares and the rest in cash.

On the currency markets, the pound fell 0.05% against the euro at €1.1469 but rose 0.14% versus the dollar at $1.4195.

Finals
Central Asia Metals
Destiny Pharma
PureTech Health
Saga

Interims
C4X Discovery Holdings
WH Smith

Trading Announcements
Dunhelm Group
Man Group
Greene King
Hays

 

AGMs
McColl's Retail Group
Smith & Nephew
 
UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) RICS Housing Market Survey
 
Intl. Economic Announcements
(09:00) Industrial Production (EU)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(13:30) Import and Export Price Indices (US)
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)

Columns of Note

Iain Martin, writing in The Times, assesses Mark Zuckerberg's performance in his two day Congressional hearing. He argues that Zuckerberg may have opened himself up to the "legal vultures" by admitting that Facebook was responsible for the content on its platforms.

Owen Jones takes aim at Andrew Neil in his recent column. While admitting that Neil is a forensic and formidable interviewer, he claims that due to his background with the Conservative Party, he cannot be held as an impartial presenter on the BBC.

Did you know?

On this day in 1980, the US Olympic Committee endorsed a boycott of the Moscow Olympic games.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons
 
In recess until 16 April 2018
 
House of Lords
 
In recess until 16 April 2018

Scottish Parliament

In recess until 16 April 2018